From increasing regulations and client demands to firm consolidation, 2018 promises to make accounting professionals carefully examine their mix of services, industry concentrations, and niches. Here are some predictions and trends to consider in strategic planning:
- Partner accountability. Client engagement profitability will be more scrutinized and evaluated while making partners more accountable. Partners need to be highly effective client relationship managers, trusted advisors, and business developers. Partner compensation will be more geared toward higher levels of profitability (and less top line emphasis) and by results-driven contributions to the future success of the firm.
- Training. Career development and leadership training will be further expanded into firm CPE curriculums as succession planning evolves into a crisis mode. Partners will have no choice but to invest heavily in their “best and brightest” in all stages of their careers to remain competitive and avoid merging into a larger firm. Firms will increase their efforts to recruit talented partners from other firms with leadership and practice development skills, and who are specialists/experts in industries and niches.
- Mergers and acquisitions. More firms will merge as a competitive strategy to gain more resources and service capabilities, rather than for near term succession problems. More small firms will split-up due to a lack of partner consensus on succession planning and the strategic direction of the firm.
- Leadership. Managing partners and executive committee members will be held more accountable by their partners in their ability to lead and manage successfully and to achieve the goals and objectives as documented in the firm’s strategic plans.
- Business development. There will be an increase in the number of firms hiring lead generator/business development professionals to compete with larger firms and supplement the practice development efforts of their partners.
- Marketing. As the lack of quality professionals continues to be an obstacle to growth, internal marketing professionals’ roles will continue to expand and increase in the areas of attracting quality staff, partners, and M&A candidates.
- Data analytics. More firms will evaluate their audit processes and procedures to make better use of data analytics and continuous auditing capabilities and related software.